Saturday, October 28, 2006

Diversity and Cultural Production Communities - Flow Conference

Moderator: Jean Lauer - Welcome to the very last panel and I want to invite everyone to the Dog & Duck Pub. How has television changed in the post network age and have various forms of diversity been addressed and ignored.

Vicki Mayer (Tulane University) - I will begin. Let me say straight out to be in panels talking about production and I do want to say that everyone who is sitting here has a different relation to all of this. Production in cultural studies becomes a veru relevant issue. The asy answer in the past was we don't have diverse people in production roles so we do not have diverse representations. But if we broaden our focus we may see diversity... on reality shows for example. Of course this is in a non-union non-guild manner. But this is problematic. In casting these shows, 99% of reality casting is done by women and gay men. It is emotional labor to get crazy people to do the labor to get people on Tv and say crazy stuff. So if you are a straight man it is hard to get into this, which is a challenge in an odd way. To what degree are these subjectivities determined by production roles.

Sharon Ross (Columbia College) - I am coming at thyis from a small media arts role and I do it froma a writing and production track. We have a very high percentage of minority and first gen college students. What is the way that we can pose a series of change. One thing that comes up over and over is what do we mean when we say diversity and our writers and producers don;t understand this issue. What is the relationship between diversity and choice? How can the classroom change this. You often get race in her where niches fold into choice. We get a terrible problematic of nicheing. Then you get the Wire which is brilliant but no one watches it. And these things are interested in it but often they are stymied by the roles that they see in production culture. How do we incorporate these tools at the production level -- critical theory in production -- so we can get ethics and cultural responsibility.

Belinda Acosta (Austin Chronicle) - I don'[t know why I am here and I am not an academic. However I get questions like this in many ways about diversity, because I have the brownest face in the room. And I get paid to watch TV. Ultimately for a number of reasons I am interested to have diverse people in the industry. I ahve a big thing with young people to look at TV and see the invisible structures that help us interpretp material such as class. No one wants to talk about class. And class exists. Class defines what we think is good, real, authentic and of quality. My personal viewing is interesting. I don't love "Ugly betty" -- maybe the only person in the US who doesn't love it. Those ABC and FOX are trying to find the "Brown Dollar" but I am sick of being treated as homogenous. We are not all bilingual, nor are we all "Mexican".

John Caldwell (University of California, Los Angeles) - In the last few years I have been doing cultural studies fieldwork and this started off with fruistration about high-level executive interviews. The higher you go up the food chain the least credible you get. I would gvet producers who speak in pre-crafted soundbites. This is in some ways about self-branding. But I have a better affinity with gaffers and grips and sometimes their truth is from the fact that they are more desperate than execs. There is a massive and accelerating supply of Labor in LA and this makes a problem for all kinds of diversity issues. Also, everyone wants to make you work for nothing in LA. I can't tell you how many people would work for nothing who were PAs. The stories are unbvelievable. The other part of this is that academics are part of this overproduction. We produce too many people to get kicked around at Viacom. I realize how one rises up in the indy and it starts with interning and moving on up. The class nature of universities in the US is a huge issue. What we could do is never place working class students on teh writer's staff of the Simpsons, but at other places lik UC Long Beach they are getting into things like "Hard Copy" and other "low" media.

Miranda Banks (USC) I want to say that one thing about issues of gender are key. Think about costume designers and this is interesting... it is below "the line:" and out of the 660 of these people 600 are women, about 50 are gay men. These are the lowest paid of the "Top" "Below the line" industries. On the other hand about 3% women in terms of cinematagraphers and they are at the "Top" of the pay level. And this is seen in salary differences. In the piece that i wrote was to stretch this term diversity. The amount that poeople are paid is going down, indeed, But more importantly you are doing the work of a number of different jobs. Think of costume designers and supervisors. No one wants to pay designers, but they want supervisors to do that in order to drive down costs and go against thye union rules. IATSE is losing camera operators because of HD digital. And someone holds that camera, just not a camera operator. And then, again, in Raelity Shows, what is "writing". People are writing but they are called producers. And in some cases these are editors.

Spencer Nutting (independent media producer) - I was able to get on this panel and as a gay male in the media who produces it as a gay male. There is a funny thing about this on 60 Minutes recently abou affectations whether or not they were gay. This is an interesting thing. Think about the Office and "Gay Witch Hunt". With that in mind and get a little more serious. But most people don't know that I am gay until I say it. And television is all about stereotypes. We are always going to tell us something "gay" will be on TV with a "Viewer Discretion Advised" telegraphs that something "gay" will be on TV (references famous "All in the Family" about gays on TV). The brunt of the joke about the Office is that the manager doesn't know how to deal with the issue of how to act appropriately with Gay people...

Moderator -- Let's open this up

Miranda -- One of the things about Producers is that they know how to "define" what they are doing, theior conceptual pitch. But people "below the line" are baffled by why people would want anyone to ask us about it since they then give us the most exciting conversation about these shows. This desire to to talk to the producer may actually be better suited to looking and thge "bleoiw the line:" aspect.

Elana Levine -- In my experience no one knows what to talk about when addressing scholars. This includes producers. The best way would be doing observational type of work.

LS Kim -- Could we pick up and talk about Sahron's query define diversity. If we are going to bother top deal with diversity, well, what does it mean?

Vicki -- For me this term.. I almost never ask people about it in this language since it seems to work on a liberal model and we are schooled in PC language. But when you ask what are the characteristics about "doing your job" then you begin to realize that everyone who did this work was female or a gay male. My next step is to study people and watching them do their job.

Sharon -- I have a similar experience with the word diversity and working with people in the industry and the word is incredibly overused. For my students it is a term that we try to unravel because the term seems useless. We essentially toss aside that word and talk about "Authenticity" and "authentic" representations. But I am seeking new tools and new vocab.

Belinda -- I am a Latina and I want our stories being told and that old line. I am looking for meaty and interesting stories. One of the shows I love to hate is "Grey's Anatomy" and I was thrilled about Snadra Oh's character and about how her story was complicated and she is driven but works hard and we do not see her this way... but that was in the pilot and Sandra Oh, though, is now just angry and driven in her work. I like to see how hgard it is to be a human being is represented.

John -- I am not certain I can name what diversity but I know I can name it when it doesn't exist. In a tradition where class is key, the workers are the key. In LA by many people who look at a highly paid cmaeraworker may be a problem and old people are sometimes seen as evil by young workers. I am interested in broader economic schemes here is a great way. But Postfordist anxieties and overproduction is a problem for "people" and great for "industry". Of course, I am giving you and example in Los Angeles and LA loves itself as being multiculti but class is a problem if you do not know how to "eat properly" or play "Golf" with the right people. You can get your ambitions beaten out of you so easily there

Miranda -- I think John is right and I think about how no guy wants to hire their Mom in tyhe writers room. This is one way to thionk of class and labor issues, but in gender. I think that there are those kinds of issues and their are diversity of cultures and what kinds of communities that you are suppoised to be involved in. The culture that one's surround themselves in in each level of production are very different. You need to piece apart production and how each subsection has its own politics.

LS -- Yeah, that;s why I thought that this would be useful.

Spencer -- I think diversity is a "tool that has been implemented by the gay mafia" you can ask Jerry Falwell and they will tell you that this is about tolerating those gays and the like. In Antidiscrimination policies based on race, gender and age... and then disabled and sexual orientation and the rainbow concept of diversity... and where does it all end? Well, diversity begins and ends with us and it is everywhere. Instead of the melting pot we are a salad... and this is a way of looking for us

Audience -- I am British and talkking about class in America makes me nervous. Look at Universities... in Britain it is about middle classing the profession. There are distinct ways of conducting ourselves and these alienate working class people. I think it is horrible that the working class are becoming the subjects rather than production... see Wife Swap.

John -- I like what you were saying on so many levels. Let us think about using a different word than "The Industry" and think about how there are many specifics and locals. There are many local and in-depth studies. I come from a rural whiote trash background and I do not feel that I fit in. Think about NYU and the working class students who take humungous loans at a place like that to make their calling card films.

Miranda -- I know many people who work as gaffers and electricians and they lead a solid job...

Audience -- In Britain that work would not be seen as a middle class job...

Miranda -- Yes, but this is about income. Writyers coming from Liberal Arts education and the issues of class are recomplicated and the issues have to do with background that is cultural.

Audience -- How do you teach diversity -- I teach that it doesn not exist and something that does not exist. And let us think about this at an international level. Is it possible to see homosexuality in CAmeroon as a mafia... well, it is criminalized there.

Spencer -- How many of you are familiar in The Wire. The show is incredible that there are Gay and Lesbian characters in both the police and the crime levels. One of the police commanders is a self-loathing gay man. What the show appears to be and what the show is and the city of Baltimore sets it up with the issue of class and how the criminal class is set up at a very young age. How do you break the cycle of crime. One of the interesting thinsg you do when you "come out" is breaking the cycle. What I am trying to say is that when I came out it came down to where do I want to go with my life?

Amanda Lotz -- Could we reflect on this on how it fits in the tradition of cultural studies and political economy?

Vicki -- It's a long history in sociology and cultural studies where we break apart cultural models. Many of the things that set up subcultuires that percolate up... you don't start with Badigkian and work your way down but you reframe them in many different ways. There is so much room out there to start. Where does it start and where does it start and does it start with the maker of the TV sets.

Audience -- We have heard about many of the barriers to production. I would like to think about this in terms of downward mobility and then go down from college to working on a cheap reality tv show. There is a strong parallel.

Spencer -- Think about Public Access TV. I am a producer here in Austin and have a license with them and it is the means of producing and ending up with production. We have to think about it in terms of wise use and the knowledge that takes me there. Resources are the key for me.

Vicki -- I want to address John's comment. There are so many people out there and people want to this

Audience -- I want to talk about this in such a way that maybe if a Minority who get into a position of power.

I make a pleas for studying popular music media

Audience -- Let us think about TV voting as a mode of interdisciplinarity

John -- Ok, work matters. I think in the terms of textual analysis that is done is short sighted work. One of the things that is celebrated in the system is something that works for profit. And then there is a textual economy... you move something un and where this is. And any time there is instability you have an opportunity.

Spncer -- There are more opportunities now than there were in the recent past. Many people can now create and distribute and there is a way of making a calling card and this is good.

Vicki -- Let us look at call centers though and in Maquilladoras where work is being more and more... dehumanized.

John -- Let us think about the critical activity and the wokr that is done -- this is something that is something that helps us think about it TV in this way.

Audience -- critical studies people and production department... there seems to be a way in which none of this is supported. Critical studies are not encouraged to do any production.

John -- And the MFA doesn't want to give us places for critical studies in many ways in allowing these courses that come about.

Jyotsna kapur -- Let us look at this in a post-fordist economies, which you have. We think about this in terms of a lot of working class and first gen studies and students come from a consumerist idea of getting a job that is, at the same time, have an interest in getting insights about political economic theory and the like.

1 comment:

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